Qihoo 360’s emergence as the 2nd most visited search engine in China has been nothing short of remarkable. The company first became known for its incredibly successful anti-virus software, later launching its own web browser to extend their influence. Like most browsers, Qihoo 360 came with an integrated search bar with the default search engine set to Google. Then on August 16, 2012, Qihoo 360 abruptly swapped out Google for their own brand new search engine as the default search engine, skyrocketing Qihoo 360’s search engine to the No. 2 spots overnight.

Very little is known about the Qihoo 360 algorithm at the moment, due to its relatively new arrival. However, as Baidu is the main competitor, it’s likely a great deal of their own algorithms has been modelled after the market leader. The only unknowns are the limits to Qihoo 360’s ability to reverse engineer Baidu’s algorithm.

Though no wide-scale research has been done to reveal a deep inspection of Qihoo 360’s algorithm, anecdotal evidence from webmasters around the web confirm that typical Baidu SEO best practices are likewise effective for 360. Many webmasters have noted the search engine’s indexation rate seems to be impressively high, overtaking Baidu in most cases. Submitting a site to 360 usually results in a visit from their spiders within 24 hours, which again can be much faster than Baidu at times.

An evergreen criticism of any search engine is that they tend to favour their own properties in search results, and Qihoo 360 is not an exception to the rule. Though without hard evidence, many SEOs claim Qihoo 360 features results from their encyclopedia or Q&A sites abnormally high in SERPs.

Just as Baidu’s algorithm and spider lack the sophistication of Google’s in crawling and spam detection, it can be inferred that due to Qihoo 360’s relative immaturity, their algorithm may be more susceptible to more old-school link spam or other black hat techniques. It would be unwise, however, to suspect that you could fool the algorithm for too long, as Qihoo 360 has declared their algorithm is user-experience focused, and it won’t be long until the search engine is even savvier at filtering out such results.

While an acquisition of another search engine such as Sogou could indeed mean a change in 360’s algorithm, for now our recommendation is to stick with known, common-sense SEO best practices for Baidu, and rankings on haoso.com should follow.

Qihoo 360 displays search results in a way that will be familiar to Google users, but tries hard to differentiate itself from Baidu’s practice of subtly confusing paid results with organic ones. By trying to make the line between paid and organic listings more clear and prominent on SERPs, Qihoo believes they’re taking the higher moral ground in protecting users’ interests, while calling attention to what they feel are Baidu’s unsavory tactics.

Qihoo and Baidu do share one SERP layout feature in common, however, that is the ability for 3rd party widgets. In Baidu, it’s called Baidu Open, while in Qihoo 360 it’s called oneBox. This service allows advertisers to create a customized widget that can be served up in SERPs.

As you can see in the E-Commerce example below, some of them can take up quite a large footprint on the SERPs. This is definitely something you should be aware of when optimizing for a keyword. If there’s a very large oneBox on the SERP above you, it may be less effective optimizing for this keyword since even a top ranking will be far below the fold.

Qihoo 360 is definitely a hot search engine. Their entry into the market has caused a considerable stir, and is poised to shake things up even further. Mergers and acquisitions could considerably change the competitive landscape in the near future, as could improvements in Qihoo 360’s algorithm, further leading to the search engine chipping away more and more market share from Baidu.

While doing SEO for Qihoo 360 likely doesn’t require any extra steps than you would normally do for Baidu, you’ll still want to pay attention to SERP layouts to see if organic results get crowded out by any oneBox results that may appear above your site’s results.